5 Ways to Encourage Players

One of the most difficult aspects of coaching is getting players to perform to their potential. Whether it’s a lack of confidence or lack of motivation, pushing them to excel is a great challenge. You must have a relationship with your players in order to have an encouraging impact on them. Here are five ways you can encourage the players on your team and get them to that level of success you already know they can reach. 

  1. POSITIVE FEEDBACK: This is probably the most obvious method, but it is definitely crucial. Young athletes need praise. They need to know they’re doing a good job. This means recognizing the little things: are they hustling hard? Did they make a smart pass? Did they dive for a ball? Did they do well encouraging one of their teammates? Recognize the right things. Things like setting the ball properly or making the cut to the basket at the right time. Giving positive feedback also includes recognizing the improved things. These are the areas of the game that your player has shown marked improvement over the course of the season. Are they serving better? Are they boxing out better to get rebounds? Praise is important, and should be done in public and in one-on-one teaching situations.

  2. BUILD CONFIDENCE: It’s no grand secret that most players perform at a much higher level when they’re confident in their skills. As a coach, you play a big part in that. Build their confidence by giving them growth opportunities. Put them in a position or situation they don’t normally get to be in. This shows them you believe in them to succeed even in an area they haven’t “mastered” yet. Correct their mistakes gently. Don’t yell, don’t use harsh language, and don’t act exasperated. You were a young athlete once, and you know that no one at their age is going to be perfect. Use mistakes as a teaching lesson, being clear and concise with directions. Also encourage your players to do self-evaluations. They’ll point out things they struggle in, and that gives you a chance to immediately provide one-on-one coaching to help them improve. Lastly, give them chances to do public speaking. It’s a great fear for many people, but the younger a person gets used to speaking in front of a group the more likely they’ll grow in confidence in all areas of their life. The skill of public speaking is invaluable. 

  3. KNOW THEM OFF THE COURT: The great Mike Krzyzewski once said “You will be a better coach if you make it a point to know what is going on in your players’ lives.” Knowing what’s going on in the personal lives of your players will help you coach them better. Know their family life. Know who their friends are (boyfriends/girlfriends if they have them). Know what classes they’re taking in school and how they’re doing in those classes. Know what their hobbies are. What do they like to do away from sports? Investing in your players’ lives beyond just their athletic ability shows you care and will give them an incentive to work even harder on the court, knowing coach truly cares about them.

  4. SET GOALS: Giving your players specific goals to work towards during the season shows that you have confidence in them. Make sure the goals are realistic and catered towards the things a player needs improvement on. Give clear directives on ways to accomplish the goals. Also give them a clear purpose for the goals. For example, they may wonder “why do I need to make better passes?” You can explain the purpose in that is because it gives other players who shoot well a greater opportunity to score.

  5. BE A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL: As much as your words can impact a player, your actions double your impact. The way you live your life, the way you speak, and the way you act on and off the court matters. Be consistent in your attitude and behavior. Don’t yell at your players in a game if you never raise your voice in practice. Be compassionate, knowing your players all have things away from sports going on that affect their lives. Be fair. It’s probably obvious who the best players on your team are and who the less talented players are. Treat them all the same way that you would want to be treated in their situation (Matthew 7:12).